UK trade mark owners should be very wary of renewal “invitations” sent by a party trading as “Stern, Young & Partners”.

Trade mark registrations become eligible for renewal six months before the deadline (which falls every 10 years on the anniversary of the application date). Typically, “Stern, Young & Partners” will remind owners of the the deadline in advance of this six-month period, using information obtained from the publicly available Trade Marks Register. With this modus operandi, they pre-empt the owner’s actual representatives of record (if they have one) – who have no reason to be pestering the owner with reminders before the registration is even due for renewal –  and inject a false sense of urgency where in fact, there is none.

While the ethics of this kind of nakedly opportunistic touting might be debated, particularly touting directed at a trade mark owner that is already professionally represented, renewal “invitations” of this kind are probably not illegal in the UK. The initial letters sent out by “Stern, Young, & Partners” do not say anything that is wilfully untrue, although anecdotal evidence from our own clients is that things do then get a bit more “muddy” in Stern, Young & Partners’ increasingly frantic and insistent follow-up phone calls and emails; on the face of it, though, this is not a case of fraud per se.

The renewal invitations from “Stern, Young & Partners” are always accompanied by an invoice demanding payment upfront (also not unlawful), and therein lies the rub: the invoice amounts tend to be between five and ten times what trade mark owners can actually expect to pay through even the priciest of legitimate firms.

The name “Stern, Young & Partners” undoubtedly has a certain gravitas to it, and that’s probably intentional. In fact, “Stern, Young & Partners” is Stern, Young & Partners Limited, a private, limited company incorporated in England & Wales in 2018. It has a single director, a Swedish national called Klas Erik Thomas Rennerfelt – not a Stern, a Young, or partners of any description in sight – and there is no evidence that “Stern, Young & Partners” as an entity or Mr Rennerfelt personally is in any way regulated by IPReg (the Intellectual Property Regulation Board) or the SRA (the Solicitors Regulatory Authority).

Buyer beware!